March 30, 2011

My books are for sale in Chinese!

Blog, they are! And here are the covers to prove it! You can see with your own eyes here.

As I mentioned here in a post last November, last year I was approached by a literary agent (Chengdu Rightol Media & Advertisement Co. Ltd.) in the People’s Republic of China about the translation and Chinese publishing rights for my two vampire romance novels, Bloodchained and Bloodchained II: The Secret of Secrets ( The deal went through successfully and was thrilling to me both financially and as an awesome cultural experience. I even exchanged Facebook messages with the translator of BCII, Ning Qian, a wonderful young woman who taught me a lot about Chinese culture.

Well, yesterday I decided to try googling the titles on Amazon China, and lo and behold, there they were! Some of the artistic elements drawn by my daughter Katie for the English book covers are combined with those gorgeous Chinese characters...I love them!  Both books are indicated as “Editors Choice,” and they are currently selling better than the paperback versions on!  (Now if only China would get the Kindle...)

So now you can see how “Bloodchained” translates! According to Google translate, it’s literally “Blood Bound.” I’d love to know what else these covers say, if anyone out there can read them for me! I’m expecting eventually to receive some sample copies from my agent, so that will be amazing. And here’s my name in Chinese (assuming you all have the font installed): 戴安娜•劳伦斯 Too cool!

In googling the books, I found they are offered for sale all over the internet, at countless Chinese sites that are remarkably similar to online book distributors in the Western World. Considering the population of the People’s Republic, it should come as no surprise that there are droves of Chinese booksellers.

What is a fairly new development, from what I can gather, is the PRC government’s willingness to encourage and endorse free enterprise like this. My publisher, New Star Press in Beijing, has official authorization to find Western titles like mine, translate and distribute them. That means lots of new opportunities for agents like mine, and translators, and booksellers both online and brick-and-mortar style. There is more demand for recreational reading material than the People’s Republic can currently provide from within, and with increased openness to the principles of capitalism, situations like mine are the result.

What really rocks about this, Blog, is that it means more communication between citizens of the West and those of the PRC. That can only be a good thing. I’ve learned, for example, that young Chinese people now enjoy tons of American television via the internet. Clandestine though it is, this it teaching them how much we all have in common. Apparently there are tons of people in China just as interested in Bones and Booth getting together on the Fox drama series as I am!

Meanwhile, I experienced perfect courtesy and professionalism from my dealings with my agent and my translator. Establishing a relationship like this, which by necessity required some trust on both sides (it’s not like I can go to their offices and accost them!), also builds bridges.

Blog, all I can say is, it’s a great time to be an author, a publisher, and a citizen of Planet Earth!

March 29, 2011

How to host a Spa Day at home

Blog, let’s review. Last Christmas Eve, my daughter Amanda and I opened packages from my other daughter Katie that contained baskets full of all sort of fun spa items: facial mix, “gator butter” for softening skin, socks to use for foot treatments, soft cushy slippers. There were also certificates to enjoy a day of treatments at a spa called “Carpe Diem.” Click on the image to see the lovely array of inclusions at said spa day!

Well, there had been a $50 limit on all our gifts to each other, so I questioned how Katie could afford to give us these spa days. “Because the spa is my house!” she explained. Which to our amazed minds made it even better!

So this past Saturday Katie hosted us for our Spa Day, and it was even more awesome than we had dreamed. Readers out there, this could be a great gift for you to give a loved one! Here’s how it all went down.

A relaxing arrival

When we arrived, we found Katie had prepared her cozy arts-and-crafts style living room with comfy chairs flanking the faux fireplace, scented candles, and fresh flowers. Manzi and I put on our robes and aforementioned slippers. Katie had made us each a relaxing heated shoulder wrap made from a sock stuffed with rice and gloriously scented with vanilla sandalwood. We settled into our chairs with lovely glasses of sparkling cucumber spring water (cuke and lime slices). We also had bowls of organic dried fruit and pepitas/cocoa nibs/dried cranberries to snack on.

Foot treatment

It was time for a little party for our feet! Katie had a large dishpan type-tub for each of us, into which she placed warmed river rocks and a hot soak of honey, milk and oatmeal. The rocks are so you can wiggle your feet and get a nice massage, and they really did feel great. Katie used another homemade concoction to exfoliate our feet, made of vanilla, brown sugar, oatmeal, milk-soaked ground almond and extra virgin olive oil. She rinsed us off with cool milk and toweled our tootsies dry. Then she indulged us in an actual foot massage, using shea butter, extra virgin olive oil, jojoba oil and vanilla sandalwood whipped into butter. We put on our socks to let the buttercream work even more magic to soften our feet.

A healthy, uber-tasty lunch

Katie had prepared us a scrumptious spa lunch, which was served to us in our chairs. She made smoked salmon, Greek yogurt and chive open-faced sandwiches on whole grain pita bread, and balsamic quinoa salad with spinach and feta. Satisfying for both soul and body, not to mention super yummy!
Hand treatment

Our hands were up next for pamperization. We soaked them in bowls of warm milk, honey and oatmeal. Then they got the whole buttery treatment and massage similar to our feet--the lotion was like the foot stuff except with emulsifying wax and water in place of the shea butter. It’s amazing how much effect hand and feet massages alone can accomplish! Afterwards, our warm and relaxed hands cozied up in hand towels for awhile.

We were actually given three options of facials and could pick our preference. Manzi chose the one suited for normal/dry skin, and I picked the one for aging skin. Katie gave us each a headband to keep our hair clean, and proceeded to cleanse, tone, and apply our skin-specific masks. We relaxed in our chairs for awhile, and it was essential to have cucumber slices placed on our closed eyes...both to refresh them and to provide entertainment as Katie rescued them a few times from sliding off! Then after 20 minutes or so, Katie wiped the facials off gently (yep, we didn’t even need to go rinse in the sink) and then applied moisturizers. All natural ingredients were used for everything, including eggs, banana, ground avocado pit, lemon and honey!

Katie all the infos she used for everything by searching online, Blog. Here are some websites she recommends:

Here’s to our health!

We capped off the day with lovely glasses of dry champagne with fresh raspberries. It was time to just chat and enjoy each other’s company for awhile. That was the perfect way to conclude the perfect day!

It goes without saying that Katie put a lot of prep, research, and work into treating us to this wonderful spa day. (She also took all these awesome photos during the festivities!) But speaking for her, Blog, it was all worth it. It was a day her sister and I will never forget, and meant so much more because she did it for us herself.

So if you dabble in home spa or would like to get into it (Katie was totally new at it), what better to do than treat a friend or family member or two into a spa day?

March 23, 2011

Orthopedic sturgeons

This is what happens when Davie and I brainstorm, and then I capture our thoughts via that wonderful tool called Photoshop.  I think the Randometer approves.

That is all.

March 21, 2011

I heart my Thunderbolt - a review, with love

I have returned at last, Blog, for I just have to share about my crazy love affair with my new Thunderbolt phone, which I got last Thursday. I was the very first person to buy one from my local Verizon store because the T’bolt launch date was the exact day I qualified for “New After Two.” Ah, kismet.

Please meet Tybalt, over whom I am so unreasonably giddy as to be singing things like “Longer” by Dan Fogelberg. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but I do really adore this phone. The reasons why may be no big deal to recent iteration iPhone and Android phone users, so if so, bear with me. To a person who had a 20-month old Blackberry (wow, 20 whole months), Tybalt seems to have come from the future.

1. Speed. I’ll say it again. Speed. I live on the south side of Milwaukee, a city slated to get 4G service by the end of 2011. But I got Tybalt home and discovered that our area actually has it NOW! Whoa, you should see the fastness, it’s almost as good as browsing on my PC, speedwise. Even in 3G areas it is ridonkulously fast.

2.  When you wake Tybalt up, the home screen does what the local weather is doing. Like the clouds part, or it rains and some windshield wipers flash by, or lightning streaks across the screen. I mean, not only does Tybalt know where I am and what the weather is there, he acts it out. Gosh. Okay, that’s fun but I guess I need to focus on more serious issues. (But it is WAY fun.)

3. He is a kickass phone. As in phone. As in crystal clear sound like I used to have on our landline but gave up to save money so I could justify paying for a smartphone. Imagine it! A great phone!

4.  He’s a GPS at no extra charge! I never got GPS on my Blackberry because it was $10/month extra, but not Tybalt. Not only does he know where I am, he knows what direction I am facing. Seriously! Also, I can say at him where I want to go (like “Kohls”) and he finds the nearest Kohls, maps the route, shows me where and can even vocalize turn-by-turn directions! Boo-yah.

5.  A press of a button (the Places app) reveals cool stuff nearby. Restaurants! Bars! Attractions! Gas! Not only that, there are reviews and info and of course, mapping. A vacationer’s dream I tell you.

6.  A way better version of Facebook. FB is key to me, and this version is ten times better than the FB app I had before.  Heck, all the apps seem cooler. You should see the nifty way WeatherBug looks on here, with all the sliding around of panels and stuff.

7.  That spready-finger feature. Yeah, I know this is not exactly cutting-edge, but I love being able to use my fingers to make an area of the browser screen larger. Links work so much better, too. I’ll just say I’m coveting a tablet way less now.

8. Angry Birds. Wow, it’s all they said it was and more. I won’t miss Bubblechain after all.

9. Glorious picture and sound. Yeah, I’m not talking about a TV. The image is so awesome, and the speakers real nice, and I can plug in headphones and get really great stereo sound. Oh Tybalt, is there no electronic device you can’t stand in for?

10. And all that jazz. Where do I stop? There’s a barcode scanner, a really excellent flashlight that I’ve already used, front and back cameras, very convenient syncing of all my email accounts, contacts, bookmarks, calendars, gazillions of apps like Walgreens (where my entire library of photos are stored online) and eBay and YouTube, crazy plentiful customization features, yada yada.

My Blackberry tried to do things, and sometimes did them okay, but often did them half-assed. My Thunderbolt does all things well. (Okay, he can’t totally replace the TV yet, but wait till Hulu is made Android-accessible. And Netflix, what about you too?) Tybolt can do GPS, game device, music player, computer, camera/camcorder, and...wait for

You can use a Thunderbolt as a substitute nook or Kindle also, but I’m afraid I also have to hang on to Cranny--he still makes for a better ereader. I have to keep ICU, my real camera, too, but I’m guessing I could stop carrying him everywhere with me and reserve him for vacays and siteseeing trips. Now Abbott Labs just needs to find a way to integrate the continuous glucose monitor into an Android phone and I will only need one device on me to live!

Okay, be fair, there’s one thing I still kind of need to live, and that’s my PC, Gaiman. But only because I wouldn’t want to try to write a novel on a phone. Or for that matter, Blog, a blog.

March 2, 2011

Crafting with random stuff

Crafting falls into two categories, Blog:  the projects you plan and purchase supplies for, and the projects you do from whatever random stuff you have on hand.  While the former type of project often leads to more polished and impressive results, the latter type has its advantages. Random crafting means no outlay of cash that you haven't already spent, and it yields a special satisfaction because you made something cool out of whatever was on hand.

Sunday I had a little spare time open up, so I pulled out my many jewelry supply storage boxes (which are random in and of themselves, Blog) and fashioned this necklace.  The elements included are:

1.  Four types of ribbon I purchased as a group at the 2009 Bead & Button show in Milwaukee.

2.  A gold chain I bought on sale at Michaels on some random shopping trip.

3.  Some gold beads that were part of a giant assortment I bought on eBay in 2007.

4.  Some assorted wooden beads I found in my sewing box years ago that I probably had since the 70s.

5.  Some plastic leaf beads I totally do not recall buying but have also had for years.

And they all come together to make this pretty nice necklace!  Sweet.

As any jewelry making hobbyist (or any craft hobbyist of any kind will tell you), part of the joy of the hobby is acquiring a nice supply of random items.  This includes taking advantage of sales and clearances at traditional craft supply sources as well as always being on the lookout for stuff you can use.  Some of my more unusual sources have been:

  • The beach - rocks and driftwood
  • Lowe's - glass tile pieces
  • The basement - misc. metal fasteners
  • American Science & Surplus - semi-precious stones, jars, scrap metal
  • Milwaukee Art Museum snack bar - an unusual soda bottle

And the best thing about this whole process is that you make the world a prettier place!  That's a worthy cause, wouldn't you say, Blog?